Airline credit cards can be a great way to save money on travel expenses, perhaps even to score a free airline ticket or hotel stay.
There’s a big difference between travel rewards cards and airline credit cards, but that doesn’t mean one is necessarily better. Whether an airline credit card is best for you really depends on how often you travel and how you spend while you’re traveling.
Are you loyal to one airline or do you tend to use different companies?
What is the difference between travel and airline credit cards?
With travel rewards cards, you earn points as you make purchases. You can then apply those points to general travel expenses like airfares, hotel stays, rental cars and such. With travel rewards, the exact brands are not important.
With airline credit cards, the rewards usually apply to specific airlines. The advantage is that these cards can typically get you better perks than general travel rewards for the airline. But the drawback is that you won’t see as much benefit when you travel with other companies.
Is it worth getting an airline credit card?
As you can see, getting an airline card depends on whether you’re a loyal customer to one particular airline. If you do tend to fly one airline regularly, it’s definitely worth looking into the credit card connected to that brand.
The reason an airline credit card can be so beneficial to regular fliers is that airlines are really vying for your business right now. So, they’re willing to offer some great rewards to loyal customers to try to keep their loyalty.
Getting an airline credit card connected to your flying habits can really pay off if you’re a frequent flier. You can also often get some in-flight upgrades.
However, if you don’t travel much or if you tend to use different airlines when you do, you may want to opt for another type of credit card.
How do airline credit cards work?
Airline credit cards can offer you some really great returns. Each works in a slightly different way with its own perks, but you usually get a certain amount of rewards for the money you spend on the card.
You can often earn points or miles for making purchase with the airline, like in-flight food and beverages.
Some credit cards, like Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, have spending categories in which you can earn additional miles or points. In the case of this card, you can earn 2X miles for purchases at grocery stores in the U.S. and restaurants around the world.
Many airline credit cards will offer great introductory bonuses. Afterall, remember they want your business. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred card will give you 60,000 introductory points and Delta SkyMiles Blue America will give you 10,000 introductory bonus miles.
Downside of Airline Credit Cards
Keep in mind that some airline credit cards come with annual fees. If you don’t travel frequently, that may not be worth the cost.
However, most people find that even if they only travel a couple times, the cost of the card is easily recouped in rewards. That’s especially true for those cards that give you rewards for everyday purchases.
What is the best airline credit card?
Here are Wallet Arrow’s top picks for the best credit cards connected to airlines. Review the terms and conditions of each one, and see how they fit into your own travel habits.
- Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
- United Explorer Card by Chase
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business
- JetBlue Plus Card
What is the easiest airline credit card to get?
The easiest airline credit cards to get approved for are secured credit cards. These kind of cards are geared for people with lower credit scores to help them build a healthy credit history.
Secured credit cards require that you put down a deposit and then that amount is used as your credit line. For example, if you make a $400 deposit, you can use that amount on the secured credit card and then make monthly payments to pay it back.
While it seems like secured credit cards are more like debit cards, they actually can be good for your credit history because they report your (hopefully timely) payments to the credit bureaus. That way, you can steadily establish credit.
You can find some secured credit cards among airlines credit cards, but unfortunately not for very many large U.S. carriers. The Skypass Visa Secured Card is more of a travel rewards card that awards you one mile for every $1 you spend as you build credit.
Otherwise, how easy it is to get an airlines card really depends on your own financial situation – namely your income and credit score, which includes debt and payment history.
So, what credit score do you need for an airline credit card? Again, that depends because each airline credit card has its own terms and conditions to apply. Most cards require a credit score of at least 600.
The Bottom Line
An airline credit card can bring tremendous savings for frequent fliers, from free hotel stays to free airline tickets.
However, these kinds of cards are not for everyone. People who don’t travel very much or who need more flexibility with the airlines that they use may want consider applying for other credit cards, like a general travel rewards card.